"Religion is for God, the Homeland is for All": The Debate over Article 2 of the Egyptian Constitution

In Egypt, debate is raging about the amendment of Article 2 of the Egyptian Constitution. According to this article, Islam is the official state religion, and the Sharia is the main source of legislation. Samir Grees has been following the debate...

The scene was remarkable, and for many it was worrying too. On 18 February, the "Friday of Triumph", about two million Muslims prayed together on Tahrir Square. Prayers were led by the well-known TV personality Sheikh Yussuf al-Qaradawi ho has close links to the Muslim Brotherhood. Is he a new Khomeini leading a new Islamic revolution?

Definitely not; al-Qaradawi is not a leader, nor was the 25 January revolution in Egypt an Islamic revolution. Nevertheless, the scenes that day were indeed "Islamic", especially when al-Qaradawi spoke to the masses after prayers. 

His supporters prevented everyone else from stepping up to the microphone to speak to the crowd. Wael Ghonim, one of the leaders of the revolution, and journalist and activist Hussein Abdel-Ghani were prevented from addressing those gathered in the square. Was it a demonstration of power by the Muslim Brotherhood? 

Now that the revolution is over, the worry that the Muslim Brotherhood could assume power in free elections in Egypt is moving many people to call for secularism to be anchored in the constitution as a guiding principle. 

For this reason, many intellectuals, artists, and pro-democracy activists are demanding that Article 2 of the current constitution be abolished. This article names the Sharia, the normative authority for Islamic legislation, as the only source of law. 

"Religion is for God; the homeland is for all"

One of those people in favour of the removal of this article from the constitution is the writer Edwar al-Kharrat. His works have been translated into many languages, including English. "The system of rule and religion must be kept clearly separate;" says the 84-year-old. "The old motto of Egypt's liberal era still applies: religion is for God, the homeland is for all." 

[See accompanying link for full text.]

Samir Grees

© Qantara.de 2011

Translated from the German by Aingeal Flanagan

Editor: Lewis Gropp/Qantara.de